Science and Tech


Satellite imagery shows just how many wildfires are currently burning

Satellites show the number and extent of wildfires through the Pacific Northwest.
Posted at 7:26 PM, Jul 13, 2023

The 2023 fire season had something of a slow start, following forecasts that the season would be near or slightly above average. But fires seem to be picking up speed and frequency in some areas, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada.

Satellite imagery from the National Weather Service shows just how many wildfires were burning in the area this week on July 11 and 12, with heat spots in parts of Washington, Idaho, British Columbia and Alberta into Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday night, the British Columbia Fire Service reported 35 new wildfires had started in the three days before, with at least 59 fires actively burning within its zone at that point. These fires prompted multiple evacuations in the Canadian region, as road conditions and smoke made detecting new daily wildfires and monitoring already burning ones even more difficult.

Evacuation orders were also issued in eastern Washington, as the state's fire marshal said the 1,000 burning acres were threatening homes, agricultural land and infrastructure.

Canada is in the midst of an unparalleled fire season that continues to spread smoke across it and neighboring states, like Washington. Last week, the Canadian Forest Service said this year's wildfires had already broken the country's records in total area burned, amount of people who have had to evacuate and costs to control the flames.

So far, there have been 4,024 wildfires across Canada, scorching more than 23.5 million acres, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. That already exceeds the record of 18.7 million acres sect in 1989.

As for the U.S., a July 10 count from the National Interagency Fire Center measures 25,630 wildfires so far this year which have burned 731,382 acres across the country. These counts are below the 10-year average — 29,197 wildfires and 2,591,523 acres burned — but the devastation and need for resources is still as present as ever.

In recent years, states like California, Oregon and others in the West have reported gaps in their wildfire defense, and hiring issues and burnout are causing further speed bumps. And although drought conditions have improved conditions in the region, heat waves and dense vegetation are still adding fuel to the wildfires.

MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on June 7, 2023 as skies turned orange due to smoke.

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